Has there ever been a communist state?

By: Grace Helmke

The world is seemingly convinced that communism is the devil. It’s branded as “killer of man,” attempting to dissuade any potential from leaning into the fiery grasp of leftism. We have allowed dictatorial characteristics to become the poster child of communism; for that is all people know. Stalin. Lenin. Mao Zedong. Fidel Castro. All dictators. All members of the communist party. And yet, not one was the leader of a communist state. And that is for one reason only: there has never been a true communist state. 

I think it’s important to first discuss what communism really is. It seems that in today’s political climate, the ideology is often misrepresented and defined incorrectly. There are various overlapping political and economic ideologies which can be defined as communism.

However, the basis of a communist system lies in the idea of anti-capitalism. The means of production are collectively owned and operated, instead of privatised.

Under a capitalist system, money begins to accumulate in a small percentage of citizens: the bugeouise. This means that socioeconomic classes within a state would be abolished. The bourgeois would have the same access to resources that a member of the proletariat would. The formerly rich would have to labor, or work, just as the formerly poor did. Everyone contributes to society according to their ability, and receives back based on their need. The theory of communism revolves around the idea of abolishing all that oppresses the proletariat and all that benefits the bourgeoisie.

The USSR is often represented as being far more radically left than they actually were. We often immediately think of communism when we hear the names Vladmir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.

But the reality is that the USSR was a state capitalist society. They imposed a layer of state managers to operate the industry in the name of the people.

Like discussed before, under a true communist state, workers control production. The only time Russia was close to a communist system was right after the Bolshevik Revolution when land was redistributed to the peasants, and the farmers agreed upon how their products would be used. But, of course, the leaders were set on the idea of a state capitalist society which was far closer to a dictatorial socialist state.

Lenin did believe in Marxist theory. Karl Marx claimed that in order for a state to become fully communist, it had to go through various stages. They first would have to be a capitalist society. Capitalism would then fail, and socialism would take reign. Eventually, the communist utopia would be implemented. One could not claim to be a communist state without having been socialist first.

It could also be argued that communism never existed because the abolition of all forms of class was never administered. A social hierarchy within Russia still existed, and many believe that was due to the fact that capitalism still existed though in a different form. Amongst communists, it’s widely believed that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and much more cannot be combated until capitalism falls. 

China, as it currently exists today, although ruled by the communist party, is not a communist nation. It is most closely related to socialism, but even then it strays from what we in modern day society consider socialism. There still exists a private sector of the Chinese economy which is responsible for a larger portion of the GDP than the state sector. The state enterprises coexist with the private sector of society.

But before modern China was switched over to a mixture of private and state operated institutions, the communist party that ruled the nation was led by Mao Zedong. Upon establishing rule, the communist party wished to first implement a socialist state (like many other nations). Many leaders actually sought to follow the line of the Soviet Union, including placing restrictions upon labor in the same manner that the USSR did. They desired some control over industrial and capital society. Leaders envisioned a mixed economy of privately owned capitalist firms, state-owned capitalist firms, communist collectives, and other diverse types of enterprises. This was called market socialism.

The myth that China was communist under Mao Zedong can be further dispelled when reading an essay called “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship,” in which Mao established socialism as the foundation for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Mao stated that their mission was to implement socialism and then, long into the future, establish communism. But he admitted that it would take a significant portion of time to even commit to socialism.

There never existed a time where workers controlled their own production and surplus. They simply redistributed the wealth, and then re-established state-feudalism. This allowed them to implement communes, providing the illusion of collectivisation which gives the illusion of communism. The workers did not control anything regarding labor and surplus. They were obligated to work by commune management appointed by the government. The surplus was also under control over the government.

China was never communist, it only appeared that way due to the fact that many people don’t really understand what it means to be communist. 

Again, in Cuba, under the rule of Fidel Castro, the nation was a socialist republic not a communist state. Castro publicly admitted that communism would not work in Cuban society after an economic crisis emerged.

Cuba today is a socialist country, and does not claim to be communist. This is a common pattern in many countries with a history of communist party rule. It is believed they are communist because that’s what the leaders claim to be. But that does not mean the economic or political system actually mirrors the beliefs of the leaders. What needs to be looked at more closely is the relationship between the working class, their surplus, and their involvement in the operations of production when indicating whether or not a nation is or was communist. 

Our nation has placed an emphasis on hostility towards communists, and leftist in general, due to the false belief that communism is to blame for the totalitarian, oppressive forces of many dictators throughout history. But the truth is that communism has never existed on our planet, and therefore no one can claim that it is a theory bound to fail. There is no evidence to prove this. It’s entirely possible that one day we will be a stateless, moneyless, classless society if the belief in the superiority of capitalism falls. 

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